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Literature: Return to Sender
Return to Sender is a 2010 romance book written by Fern Michaels.

At seventeen, Rosalind "Lin" Townsend finds herself pregnant and alone. Her father, deeply religious yet cruel, throws her out of the house. Nick Pemberton, her baby’s father and the man she naively hoped might marry her, rejects her. Yet even at the lowest point in her life, Lin vows to succeed on her own terms, and to give her son, Will, all the love and happiness she’s been denied. Nineteen years later, Lin has made good on her promises. She’s the owner of a thriving diner in her Georgia hometown, and Will has grown into a fine, intelligent young man who’s about to start his freshman year at NYU. But when Lin visits New York with Will, she crosses paths with the one man she was sure she’d never see again — Nick Pemberton, now a millionaire CEO, the man who sent back all her letters unopened, marked "Return to Sender". Seeing him fills Lin with anger — and she resolves to right the wrong he did to Will. Helped by Jason, a hired detective, and her best friend, Sally, Lin sets out to disrupt Nick’s life and his finances, with spectacular results. But the truth is more complex and surprising than she imagined. And soon Lin must choose — between the revenge she thought would free her, and the bright new future that’s about to be delivered to her door....


This book provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Clarence Townsend whipped Lin with his belt, forced her to go to school without taking a bath, made sure she had no privacy, apparently killed his wife by throwing her down some stairs. He ended up in a nursing home, and the Alzheimer's he got did not diminish his abusiveness at all.
    • Pemberton Senior was an abusive parent. He beat up his wife, and it's implied that this caused her to miscarry at one point. He put her in Dr. Steffani's institution and had the doctor kill her for him. Senior raised his son to be such a jerk, made Nick marry Chelsea, and even set up his will so that Nick loses his money if he divorces Chelsea.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Played for Drama. Nick and Chelsea hate each other with a passion. Both of them hope that the other will die. They can't divorce, because Nick's father made it clear in his will that Nick will lose all his money if he does this. Chelsea actually tries to murder him. It didn't work, but it made Nick realize that he can't trust her at all.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Chelsea didn't hesitate to use this trope to get Nick to marry her.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Averted Trope. Nick Pemberton and Chelsea hate each other's guts. The one time they have some great sex together, Chelsea did it so that Nick would drink spiked tea and die of an overdose. When Nick recovered from that, he was quite displeased.
  • The Baby Trap: Chelsea used this trope in order to marry Nick for his money. She reveals that the kid she had wasn't his, and that she aborted the kid to cover it up.
  • Big Bad: Nicholas "Nick" Pemberton.
  • Bigger Bad: Pemberton Senior. He abused Nick's mother. It got to the point he put her in Dr. Steffani's institution and had the doctor kill her for him. Senior made Nick Pemberton into the jerk he is today. He made sure that Nick would be trapped in a heartless marriage with Chelsea. He died of natural causes in his eighties.
  • Chocolate Baby: Chelsea reveals to her husband Nick that she didn't miscarry the kid she had, but actually aborted the kid. The kid wasn't Nick's, but the father was a Puerto Rican named Ricky Salvadore. She felt that the kid would have revealed her deceptions had she given birth.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: It was quite convenient that Chelsea miscarried after marrying Nick. Then she reveals that she didn't miscarry, but that she aborted the kid. That was because the kid wasn't Nick's, but the father was a Puerto Rican named Ricky Salvadore. She felt that it would have been too obvious if she had given birth.
  • Date Rape: Chelsea ends up revealing to her husband Nick that the kid she supposedly had wasn't his, because they never slept together that night. She simply gave him knockout drops and made sure they woke up together in the altogether. So while she didn't have sex with him while sleeping, it could very well have gone that way.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Lin Townsend enlists the help of Private Investigator Jason Vinery to inconvenience Nick by closing his accounts, kidnapping his wife, posting an article about Pemberton Senior's abuse, urging Will not to donate bone marrow to his father, and sending Nick a recording of Dr. Steffani giving a deathbed confession to killing Nick's mother on Pemberton Senior's orders. While never getting responses from Nick at a bad time in her life is hurtful, doing all this to Nick seems a little out of proportion.
  • Divorce Requires Death: Society in this story does allow divorce. However, Nick's father makes it clear in his will that Nick will lose his money if he divorces Chelsea. So he tries his best to live with her. Chelsea decides that he's not dying of leukemia fast enough and tries to murder him. It didn't work.
  • Domestic Abuse: Lin Townsend's parents had a terrible relationship, which ended with the mother fatally falling down stairs, and it's implied that her husband pushed her. Nick Pemberton's father abused his mother, and had Dr. Steffani kill her for him. Nick and his wife Chelsea are quite abusive towards each other, and it comes to head when Chelsea tries unsuccessfully to murder him.
  • Evil Is Petty: Nick Pemberton cuts off ties with private investigator Jason Vinery and making him lose his biggest account, just because he thought Jason was annoying. Nick was going to yell at his chauffeur Herbert because the guy called him "sir" too many times.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Nick Pemberton versus Chelsea. He is a rich owner of a transport company, spoiled, and a major Jerkass. Chelsea is a social climber, gold digger, snobby, and a Jerkass. Nick becomes more sympathetic because Chelsea actually tried to murder him at one point.
  • The Fundamentalist: Clarence Townsend, Lin's father, is this. He is quite preachy and abusive about it.
  • Gold Digger: This is Chelsea's entire motivation. She married Nick for money and would do anything to get it. Including tricking him into marrying her in the first place, and trying to murder him because he wasn't dying fast enough.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played straight with Lin Townsend, who was thrown out of the house with only the clothes on her back by her father when she revealed that she was pregnant and she intended to keep the baby. Later on in the story, Chelsea reveals to her husband Nick that she didn't miscarry, but that she resorted to abortion because she was having wasn't his.
  • Hypocrite: Clarence Townsend is quite the Bible-thumper. However, he certainly seems to enjoy the wealth and luxury he is surrounded in a little too much.
  • It's All About Me: Nick Pemberton and Chelsea put themselves first before anyone else. However, Nick gradually starts thinking about other people and not just himself.
  • Jerkass: Nick Pemberton and Chelsea are rich and not afraid to kick the little people. Nick does become softer as a result of life-threatening leukemia. Clarence Townsend is a jerk at the beginning and he never changes at all.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jason Vinery turns out to be this, when he condemns Dr. Steffani for heartless actions he committed years ago. Nick Pemberton gradually turns into one as the story goes on.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Lin and Sally, with Jason Vinery's help, go around shutting down Nick's accounts, kidnapping Nick's wife, and posting up scandalous articles about the Pembertons. This would technically be considered dog-kicking, but Nick is such a Jerkass that he had to be taken down a peg or two.
  • Lack of Empathy: Nick Pemberton and Chelsea have some big problems with this. They basically think people around them are just tools. However, Nick actually gains empathy as the story goes on. This is because he has leukemia and he realizes that he is in the same boat with so many other people. In fact, at one point, he discovers that his lawyer had a relative who had leukemia and died from it. This scared Nick, because it made him realize that he shouldn't get cocky about beating the disease.
  • Marital Rape License: It seems that Pemberton Senior did this to his wife. Not only that, but he forced himself on a number of nannies that were hired to take care of his son.
  • Meal Ticket: Chelsea sees Nick Pemberton as this, and nothing else. Nick is aware of this, and the only reason he hasn't divorced her is because his father set up his will so that if he divorces her, he'll lose all his money.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Chelsea, Nick's wife, wishes that he would just drop dead so she can get his money. She spikes his tea with extremely high levels of Ambien and Ativan, and claims that he tried to commit suicide. It didn't work.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Nick Pemberton and Chelsea show themselves to be bad people, because they treat just about everyone like dirt. In fact, Chelsea thinks that the staff working for them are essentially treated like eighteenth-century slaves. However, unlike Chelsea, Nick proves that he can be nice to people who he considers inferiors.
  • Obviously Evil: Dr. Steffani. He has skin cancer, which makes him look like a shrunken potato and sporting missing skin and sores oozing pus. He turns out to be just as terrible on the inside as he is on the outside.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Lin Townsend tells her father to go to hell and that she'll no longer be responsible for his nursing home care. It's okay, because Clarence Townsend abused her for years, and never showed her any gratitude.
  • Posthumous Character: Lin Townsend's mother, and Nick Pemberton's parents are established as dead at the start of the story.
  • Private Detective: Jason Vinery is the best private detective in New York.
  • Revenge: Lin Townsend is quite bitter that Nick has never even sent money to help her and her son. In fact, seeing Nick as a guest speaker at the New York City University opening ceremony galvanizes her into wanting to make him suffer like she did.
  • Social Climber: Chelsea started out as a resident of the Bronx before she married Nick Pemberton for money. Indeed, she's trying to climb up as high as she can to get as much money as she can.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: Chelsea tries to kill off her husband Nick to get his money. The attempt fails.
  • Title Drop: The title of the book Return To Sender appears several times. This is because Lin tried sending many letters to Nick Pemberton and they kept getting sent back to her with that phrase on it.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Nicholas Pemberton gradually goes through this after he gets fast-acting leukemia. By the end of the story, he had become quite willing to accept his son Will with open arms.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Lin put her father in the best nursing home and paid for his care for years. He contained to belittle her and act abusive. She finally declares that she'll no longer pay for his care.
  • You Monster!: When Jason Vinery gets a deathbed confession from Dr. Steffani about murdering Nick Pemberton's mother on Pemberton Senior's orders and to protect his own business, and the doctor asks if Jason has anything he would like to ask him. So Jason says:
    Jason Vinery: I just wonder how you lived with yourself. You took an innocent woman away from her son, a son who might've turned into a decent human being had his mother been around to raise him. You're nothing but a pathetic excuse for a man. You're not even a man. You're a fucking monster! I hope you rot in hell, you son of a bitch! I hope the devil himself makes you his personal fuck boy! A red-hot rod up your ass is too good for you!


Sisterhood SeriesCreator/Fern MichaelsThe Napoleon
Redeeming LoveRomance NovelThe Rifter

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